Several legacy automakers are finding that switching production of gas-powered cars to electric vehicles is requiring fewer workers and that’s causing problems with unions, which are often strong in the auto industry.
In Korea, Hyundai’s union head is now even calling electric cars “a disaster” and “evil.”
Ha Bu-young, the head of the Hyundai Motor union, South Korea’s biggest and most powerful union, told Reuters in an interview this week:
“Electric cars are disasters. They are evil. We are very nervous,”
He predicts that as much as 70% of the workforce could lose their jobs as a result of the transition to electric.
That’s a new figure that he is bringing forward because while companies like Ford and Daimler have warned their workforces that they expect to find efficiency improvements in the manufacturing of electric vehicles, no one has come close to a 70% improvement.
The head of the union says that he “senses a crisis” and that comes just as GM announced that it is closing a plant in the country – though it apparently doesn’t have anything to do with electric vehicles.
The American automaker is citing “high labor costs and falling sales.”
As for Hyundai’s electrification effort, it still quite small with only the Ioniq Electric on the market and it is only being produced in relatively low volumes.
But they are accelerating their effort with the Kona Electric launched earlier this month – though the vehicle is also expected to be produced in relatively low volume.
Furthermore, the company previously said that it is not completely onboard with battery-electric vehicles.
Hyundai executives recently said that they still see potentials for fuel cell hydrogen vehicles, but they don’t think it will take off until 2025. On the other hand, they see electric vehicles representing 10% of Hyundai’s sales by 2025.
It’s in line with previous comments from company officials saying: “we are making electric plug-ins until hydrogen fuel cell vehicles take hold”.
That’s a textbook luddite comment from Hyundai’s union head trying to stop progress.
It’s not an intelligent approach to call electric cars “a disaster” and “evil” simply because it just so happens that it might have a negative impact on your job.
It puts aside all other positive impacts, which in this case dwarf any potential negative impact on employment.
Furthermore, I think auto workers probably have to worry more about improvements in robotics and artificial intelligence than any potential labor efficiency improvements that electric cars can bring to the table.